Avvy Go: Canada’s immigration rules kept families apart even before COVID-19. Now, as immigrants suffer from the pandemic, family reunification seems impossible

Given that the underpinning of immigration policy is to address an aging demographic, calling for an increase in parents and grandparents beyond the 30,000 is unrealistic. In many ways, the overall increased levels provided the government with flexibility for this increase.

With respect to spousal sponsorship, Go cites a 2015 memo that was rightly condemned as being overly simplistic and biased in its guidelines to visa officers and is no longer being used, I believe.

But like in other areas, spousal sponsorship fraud exists and the government has an obligation to counter it. The question is more in the how, and it is ducking that hard question by only suggesting “anti-oppression” and “anti-racism” training. Perhaps the authors could develop an alternative draft manual or operational guidance bulletin as a more concrete approach to the issue:

The COVID-19 pandemic has made many of us reassess our priorities. It has made us realize that the most important thing in our lives is not money or wealth, but family and health.

Story after story of Canadians losing their loved ones to the deadly virus are gut-wrenching. 

Equally devastating are reports of individuals being barred from visiting their parents or grandparents languishing in nursing homes overrun with COVID-19 cases, and essential workers in the health care being kept apart from their family to keep them safe. 

But for some Canadians, these people are the “lucky ones” — that they’re at last able to see their loved ones through a window, or live in the same area to drop off goods and gifts. But when your parents and spouses live on a different continent, it’s heartbreaking and isolating with the pandemic, and that isn’t even the reason why families and loved ones are being kept apart.

Even before COVID-19, Canada’s immigration policy had already made family reunification an impossible dream for many. The stringent income requirements imposed on sponsors of parents and grandparents (PGP,) and the mean-spirited quota system for this class of immigrants, have disqualified many low income Canadians from becoming sponsors. While the Liberals have relaxed the income rule and promised to increase the quota to 30,000 people in 2021, these measures are insufficient to meet the needs of tens of thousands of Canadians, whose ties with their parents are strengthened not only by love, but by culture and a strong sense of filial piety — to honour and respect their elders.

It should not come as a surprise that the top two source countries of PGP immigrants are India and China, which have both embraced the notion of extended family as a norm. However, given the racialization of poverty in Canada, Canadians of South Asian and Chinese descent are also among those least likely to meet the tough income rule to render them eligible sponsors.

These two communities, along with other racialized communities, have also been hardest hit by the pandemic-triggered economic downturn. With the rising unemployment rates among these communities, it may take years before they could earn enough income to make themselves eligible sponsors again.

While income eligibility is no bar to spousal sponsorship, Chinese and South Asian Canadians who want to bring their spouse to Canada often have their application denied due to systemic bias and racism within the immigration system.

Under the pretext of stopping “fake marriages,” Immigration Canada routinely rejects spousal sponsorship applications, particularly from countries like China, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. According to an internal IRCC documentrecently released by the Star, IRCC sees visa officers as “first line of defence” against marriage of convenience, rather than as civil servants whose job is to assess all applications fairly and objectively. 

The internal document is also filled with culturally and racially biased notions of what a genuine marriage should look like, and what evidence must be presented to support such applications. For instance, IRCC appears to rely on a three-page training which warns officers about sham marriages based on “photos of couples who are not kissing on the lips during the ceremony; university-educated Chinese nationals who marry non-Chinese; a small wedding reception; a Canadian sponsor who is relatively uneducated, with a low-paying job or on welfare.”

Using these criteria, none of the clients served by our two legal clinics would ever qualify. On reflection, our own long-term spousal relationships could easily have been considered “fake marriages.” Whoever came up with these preposterous indicia are probably white, belong to middle or upper-middle class, and know nothing about any other culture but their own.

Instead of relying on any “manual,” immigration officers should receive anti-oppression and anti-racism training to ensure all their decisions are biased free, so that all Canadians, regardless of their race and income, would have an equal chance to family reunification. Let’s hope the COVID-19 is not the only virus that will disappear after the pandemic. 

Let’s get rid of the virus of racism once and for all.

Source: https://www.thestar.com/opinion/contributors/2021/01/14/canadas-immigration-rules-kept-families-apart-even-before-covid-19-now-as-immigrants-suffer-from-the-pandemic-family-reunification-seems-impossible.html

Ontario’s anti-racism directorate is a promising start: Op-ed

Commentary from community activists on Ontario’s planned anti-racism directorate and their proposed additional measures to reduce racism. Overly ambitious, given resource and other constraints (e.g., across all ministries and institutions – some prioritization would be helpful), but helpful to internal and external discussion of scope:

The Ontario Anti-Racism Directorate, on the other hand, is understood to be part of the government apparatus and is tasked with, among other things, helping the government to “apply an anti-racism lens in developing, implementing and evaluating government policies, programs and services.”

A promising start, but this anti-racism lens should also be used to evaluate legislation. Moreover, we are not convinced that the adoption of an anti-racism lens alone will eradicate racism. Clearly, there are a few more things that the directorate should and can do.

The directorate can be a repository of anti-racism expertise that different government departments can draw on in order to address racism systematically, and be responsible for research, analysis, and policy development based on the data collected and expertise of staffers.

It should take the lead in the creation of provincial standards for race-based data collection, and intra-governmental and inter-governmental implementation of the disaggregated data collection policies.

It must support the policy, legislation and program development and design process across the Ontario government by applying a racial justice lens so as to mitigate any harmful impacts on racialized communities (both First Peoples and peoples of colour).

And finally it should be a point of contact for communities to share their experiences, concerns and ideas about identifying and dismantling all forms of racism in Ontario

And to ensure greater accountability and government support, the head of the Anti-Racism Directorate should have the same power and role as a deputy minister, and be given similar capacity and budget as that assigned to the Ontario’s Woman Directorate and the Office of Francophone Affairs.

The establishment of the Anti-Racism Directorate is an important first step to redress racial inequality in this province. More must be done, however, if the government is serious about eradicating racism.

The government of Ontario must implement other necessary structural, program and policy changes including:

  • Establishing an Employment Equity Secretariat fully mandated and adequately resourced in order to implement a mandatory and comprehensive employment equity program in Ontario.
  • Collecting and analyzing ethno-racially and otherwise appropriately disaggregated data across all provincial Ministries and public institutions.
  • Amending the provincial funding formula for publicly funded elementary and secondary schools by introducing an Equity in Education Grant – a more robust redistributive mechanism rooted in a range of relevant equity and diversity measures and considerations – to ameliorate Ontario’s growing ethno-racially and otherwise defined learning outcome inequities and disparities.
  • Applying equity principles to all current and future government infrastructure investments – particularly renewable energy and “green collar” job-creating initiatives – to best ensure stable and sustainable futures for all Ontarians.
  • Establishing both the Anti-Racism as well as Disabilities Secretariats as mandated under the Ontario Human Rights Code.

Minister Coteau has indicated that he will set up an advisory body to assist him with the next step. It is critical for the minister to engage in a full and meaningful consultation process to ensure that the voices of racialized communities are heard and included.

Source: Ontario’s anti-racism directorate is a promising start | Toronto Star

A ‘race lens’ for the labour market? Welcome to 2015, Ms. Wynne

While I am not sure that I agree with all of these recommendations as I am not familiar enough with existing structures to know whether these are needed, or more adjustment of existing mandates and roles would be more appropriate, this helps continue the conversation of the overall need for a diversity lens.

In Multiculturalism in Canada: Evidence and Anecdote, the Ontario data confirms some of the gaps and challenges (particularly economic), as do any number of issues (e.g., police carding, Toronto school outcomes, children aid society statistics).

My preference is for a lens that integrates all the different aspects of diversity (gender, ethnic origin, sexual orientation etc) into policy, program and service delivery (see my earlier post, Jim Maclean: In Ontario, a new race-based government | The Limits of Anecdote and Assertion):

Having a racial-equity policy framework is just the beginning, however. If the Premier is sincere about bringing racial justice to Ontario, the following foundational steps are critical:

  • Establish an equity and anti-racism directorate to provide for the collection and analysis of ethno-racially and otherwise appropriately disaggregated data across all provincial ministries and public institutions. The directorate – with a pan-provincial government-wide mandate – would complement this data analysis by providing an ongoing monitoring and program development role for the integrated implementation of comprehensive and inclusive equity and anti-racism policies and practices.
  • Establish an employment-equity secretariat, fully mandated and adequately resourced in order to implement a mandatory and comprehensive employment-equity program in Ontario.
  • Amend the provincial funding formula for publicly funded elementary-secondary schools by introducing an equity in education grant – a more robust redistributive mechanism rooted in a range of relevant equity and diversity measures and considerations – to ameliorate Ontario’s growing ethno-racially defined learning outcome inequities and disparities.
  • Apply equity principles to all current and future government infrastructure investments, particularly “green collar” job-creating initiatives, to best ensure stable and sustainable futures for all.
  • Establish the anti-racism secretariat as mandated under the Ontario Human Rights Code.

With these and other similar measures, first peoples and peoples of colour will have a fighting chance of finally becoming equal members of our society. By 2017, these diverse communities will make up close to one-third of Ontario’s population. The time for action is now.